We heard about (and experienced) São Paulo's traffic but some of the precautions for dealing with it still took us by surprise. When we were told that we should set off at 2:30 in the afternoon to be sure of catching a flight at 11:40 at night it seemed like a joke but with deadly seriousness a minivan was booked for this time and although checking out and protracted goodbyes delayed our departure we were bouncing around in and out of potholes by 3:00.
Our driver was the same one who'd driven us in from the airport on our first arrival in Brazil and although he'd been given stern instruction that we were delicate and sensitive foreigners who should be cosseted like precious bone china he still drove like a man avoiding gunfire. After half an hour of tailgating, overtaking on whatever carriageway was free, speeding, cutting in and, at one point, yelling directions to the driver of the car beside us (while in motion, I hasten to add) we arrived at the airport. We staggered out, unloaded and waved him away, each praying that we would never travel with (or anywhere near) him ever again.
We were at Guarulhos Airport eight hours before our flight was due to depart. I guess that this wasn't as unusual as it seemed as the TAM Airways staff were happy for us to check in straight away and after the by now predictable discussion about instruments, carry-on and hold baggage we waved adieu to our big bags until Aberdeen and continued on weighed down with just our personal bags, guitar, tambura, saxophone and Bill's accordion which we were ferrying back to Scotland with us. We still used a trolley. After a brief survey of the departures area we camped down around a table that was to be our base for the next six hours.
The time passed remarkably easily and quickly. We sat and chatted, I typed away on this diary, Lucy & Jacqui went through the familiar procedure of trying to explain British tea-making to the Brazilian waiter, and gradually the clock ticked onwards. Bill had come out to the airport with us but he wasn't flying until the next day, going off to Argentina for another week. After hugs and farewells he went in search of the shuttle bus to his overnight hotel - one near the airport so he didn't have to do the drive again. And then there were four. We took turns going off for food, changing money, shopping (I finally gave in and bought a Brazil football shirt) or just for something to do and eventually the time rolled around and we set off for passport control and the departure gates. More queuing and showing of papers ensued but finally we were on the plane and ready to go. A final surprise was two of the cabin crew walking down the aisles and spraying us with something (insecticide?) and then we were lifting off and heading for Europe.
The flight was cramped, hot and airless but I managed to sleep for more than half of it and watch a film for a good part of the rest. I remembered to decline all the airline food and had spent my last reais on two bottles of water so I arrived in London only feeling mildly mauled, the best I've come to expect with modern intercontinental economy travel. Heathrow's maze of corridors and signs managed to split us up but we eventually reconvened at Terminal 5 where my airborne fasting was rewarded with a feast at an unexpected branch of Wagamama, one of my favourite restaurants.
At the departure gate for our flight to Aberdeen one of the airline staff looked on in shock at our pile of instruments and bags. Although BA say that you can carry an instrument into the cabin as one of your checked bags (provided that it will fit into an overhead locker) this is still at their discretion and as this flight was fully booked they had decided that we'd have to put some of them into the hold, an eventuality we'd been dreading for the entire trip. They promised that they'd be loaded and unloaded by hand and not have to go on the automated luggage battering system which was some relief but we handed them over as if watching our grannies set off to play rugby.
The flight was quick and easy, continuing the gradual improvement at each stage of the journey. At Aberdeen we found the instruments intact (hooray!) and had all our bags in hand in time to catch the earlier of the two possible busses back to Forres. This final part of the journey seemed to take forever and in a cruel stroke of cosmic humour the bus pulled in to the Elgin depot to fill its petrol tank, just a few minutes but yet another delay with the final goal almost in sight. But eventually we waved Rory off at his stop and finally arrived at Fores where our paths diverged. My dear friend Saille was there to drive me home and with 28 hours gone since setting off I finally found myself back in Curly Flat.